Tebow draws crowds to TPC Sawgrass for golf tourney
Published: Saturday, May 7, 2011 at 5:50 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 7, 2011 at 5:50 p.m.
PONTE VEDRA BEACH — The quarterback for the Denver Broncos had so many people following him he had to have security to drive his cart onto the tee box to avoid the crush of fans.
The quarterback for the Jacksonville Jaguars? Not so much.
This was Tim Tebow's town Saturday, as he held his inaugural golf tournament to benefit the Tim Tebow Foundation and the First Tee. On every hole he had a Tiger Woods-like gallery except they were clad in No. 15 jerseys.
And every one of them wanted an autograph or to take a picture with him.
It got so bad that the Tebow fivesome began driving their carts only inside the ropes and had to park them far away from the crowds. Tebow still signed hundreds of autographs and posed for hundreds of pictures.
“You don't want to turn down the kids,” Tebow said. “That's what this is for. But the eBay guys really were a problem. It's crazy. It's a shame really. You turn them down and they slip the item to a kid.”
Many of those in attendance for the tournament brought duffel bags full of balls and dozens of pictures of the former Gator quarterback to sign so they could make a profit. Tebow and the organizers of the tournament were talking minutes after the golf about limiting items that could be brought in to the Valley Course at TPC Sawgrass next year.
The autograph seekers started early when Christian Ponder and Fred Taylor were among the first to arrive. One girl handed Taylor a picture of Maurice Jones-Drew to sign.
“That's not me,” he said. “I wish that was me. I wish I was his age.”
Minnesota Vikings running back Adrian Peterson, wearing a bright purple golf shirt, was also a big target and drew a large gallery. He said he was playing in the event because of a bet he made with Tebow at a Nike photo shoot in Las Vegas.
“We were playing horse and he bet me that if I won he would play in my tournament and that if he won I would play in his,” Peterson said. “He was making shots left-handed so I had to shoot them left-handed. I didn't know he was left-handed.”
Tebow, who plays with two gloves to avoid getting blisters on his throwing hand, showed his competitive spirit during the round, constantly asking how other golfers were doing.
As he stood on the 12th tee, he screamed ahead to former Florida coach Urban Meyer, who was on the green, to see how many strokes under par Meyer's team was.
“I'm playing the best I've ever played,” Tebow said. “I think we can win this.”
In the end, the Tebow team tied Meyer's team at 13-under.
When he was told that you can't win your own tournament, Tebow responded, “The heck you can't.”
Fans came from all over the area to see the event, including Bill Taylor from Kingston, Ga., and several families from Gainesville. The field included Jaguars quarterback David Garrard, who had only a handful of people following his group, Danny Wuerffel, Artis Gilmore, John Lynch, and Mike and Maurkice Pouncey.
The night before, a silent auction emceed by ESPN's Scott Van Pelt was a big success with items such as a pair of Masters weeklong badges being auctioned off.
“I think it went really well,” Tebow said after his round. “People really came out and supported it. I think the foursomes enjoyed it. And I know we raised a lot of money.”
Maurkice Pouncey delivered a highlight on the 16th hole when he swung so hard the head of his rented driver came off.
“It was a Charles Barkley shot,” Pouncey said.
He autographed the head of the driver and gave it to a young lady working on the hole.
“As long as I don't do anything like that, today will be OK,” said Taylor, the former Gator running back playing a hole behind Pouncey.
The tournament featured unusual contests on several holes but the idea of using your putter the entire third hole was nixed early.
“People were getting hit,” Meyer said. “We nixed that idea.”
Instead, the golfers putted on the hole using their drivers. Another featured a punt, pass and kick contest where Ponder, the former FSU quarterback, made a big-league throw from the sawgrass and over a waste bunker into the fairway. He also ripped off the sleeves of the T-shirt he was wearing to get some sun on his arms.
“We did some things to have some fun,” Tebow said. “We'll try to keep getting it better as we go.”
Florida coach Will Muschamp, who said he has played one round of golf since taking the job at UF, started on the fifth hole, a par 3 over water.
“I'm going to be thinking about that water during my entire backswing,” he said.
He noticed the Gator fans in the crowd and said, “I'm not a golfer. I'm a lot better coach than I am a golfer. Don't get worried when you see this shot.”
The good news? He didn't hit it in the water.
Muschamp played with Tebow's father, Bob, on Saturday and said he enjoyed the whole weekend, especially because he was able to see defensive end Jason Taylor, whom he coached with the Miami Dolphins.
“And John Lynch is one of my favorite players of all time,” Muschamp said.
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